Texas Governor Says ‘Mistakes Were Made’ in Sending Fundraising Letter Warning About Migrants

August 30, 2019by Alfredo Corchado
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a Thursday meeting at the Capitol to hear from experts and advocates on how to respond to the Aug. 3 shooting that left 22 dead in El Paso, Texas. (James Gregg/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

EL PASO, Texas — In front of victims of the Aug. 3 Walmart mass shooting in El Paso, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday opened public safety talks conceding “mistakes were made” when he sent potential donors a fundraising letter that warned Republican supporters of the dangers posed by undocumented migrants entering the Texas border from Mexico.

Abbott’s comments came in response to a question Thursday at the beginning of the second Texas Safety Commission meeting to seek legislative solutions in the wake of the massacre of 22 people by an alleged white supremacist. Abbott’s letter, sent a day before the mass killing, generated wide condemnation by community organizers and political foes who say such language only widens the divide and inspires hate in an already polarized country.

“Mistakes were made and course correction has been made,” Abbott said. “I want to emphasize the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way and will make sure that we work collaboratively.”

The shooter, who drove about 10 hours from Allen, Texas, to carry out the massacre, later told police he was targeting Mexicans when he stormed the Walmart with an AK-47. In addition to the 22 who died, dozens were injured.

Accompanied by his wife, Cecilia, who is Hispanic, Abbott was on his third recent trip to this predominately Mexican American community.

Abbott and state leaders, including an El Paso delegation, met with survivors of the massacre as well as local, state and federal law enforcement.

Sitting next to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Abbott said, “The killer in El Paso definitely was a racist … We must also understand, the core of what happened here in El Paso and that was racist hate. We must find ways to address racist hate … His target was Texas, the Texas culture, the Hispanic culture and community and blended communities. My family is a blended community.”

He paused and raised his hand, adding, “My wife is the first Hispanic first lady of Texas. Her family came from Mexico. We need to address this attack on who we are as Texans.”

Thursday’s Texas Safety Roundtable event was the second of two meant to generate ideas for legislative proposals addressing domestic terrorism.

Similar roundtable meetings were held after the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas.

Some Democrats have called for a special session after the El Paso shooting, a move Abbott has resisted. He has said the commission will focus on “ideas and suggestions that can lead to laws.”

Outside the meeting, protesters with Moms Demand Action called for less talk and prayers and more action. U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat, joined the protesters to raise awareness. She had been invited by one of the victims, Chris Grant.

“I just want to ask him why we need assault weapons,” Grant said. “I wanted Rep. Escobar to accompany me. Unfortunately, they won’t let her in.”

Asked for his message to the commission and Abbott, Grant added: “What are we waiting for? If they had taken action sooner, maybe before one of the other mass shootings in Texas, this wouldn’t have happened in El Paso.”

Before the meeting, Escobar said of Abbott: “He’s here talking about how to heal when he uses words of division and hate and bigotry to raise money and to fuel anti-immigrant, anti-border sentiment.”

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©2019 The Dallas Morning News

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